Ego has been a topic of deep thought for me over the past few months. As I have gone through challenging and hard times over the past eight years, I have inevitably changed. As my views of life have been challenged, I have developed a soft heart and a groundedness that have allowed me to be introspective and reflect on and connect with the world around me. For this reason, I am grateful for my illness and everything that it has taught me. Shifting my mindset from seeing my trials and tribulations as a curse to seeing them as a gift and a blessing has been one of the most important yet hardest mental shifts I have ever gone through. What it comes down to is that having a chronic illness has been a gift. It has changed how I view the world around me, and it has been a guide leading me towards mindfulness and letting go of my ego.
When we are in an egoic state, our egos are in full control of us. We become afraid of our emotions because we are powerless to them. As emotions arise, they come to us as if we are a small child holding the leash of a big and powerful untrained dog. The intent of being able to control and lead our emotions is there. We have the dog on a leash and are ready to take it for a walk, but in reality, as small, delicate children, we stand no chance of controlling this powerful beast. Leash or no leash, we have no choice: that dog is going to drag us around wherever it wants to go.
However, just like you can train a dog to walk on a leash without pulling, we can train our minds to be present, aware, and awake, which allows our egos to become a powerful tool rather than a leash to be dragged behind. In this present, aware, and awake state, instead of emotions controlling us and taking us for a ride, we become observers of the world, and in turn, our emotions lose their power over us. Being present is about experiencing without the story behind the experience. For example, you do not experience anxiety. Anxiety is actually the story of a set of physical sensations. Anxiety in itself is not a real thing. When you take away the label and story of anxiety, you are left with physical sensations like a racing heart, feeling hot, a tight chest, a trembling body, flushed skin, or an active mind. When you take the time to observe these physical sensations truly in the present without the story behind them, you will begin to see that they are powerless. In the present moment, they are only a sensation. Suffering from these sensations only happens in the past or the future when there is a story behind what you are feeling at that moment.
How exactly has having a chronic illness helped me deal with my ego? The answer is that it has given me a plethora of physical symptoms that, over the years, my body and mind have turned into some very long and complex stories. For the past eight years, there has been a very big and powerful dog dragging me around, and up until recently, I had not been paying attention to how my emotions were controlling my physical state, and as I have begun to work on my mindfulness, I have also started to work on deconstructing these stories and viewing my experiences in this world at face value and in the present moment. When you take the story away from your illness and you focus on just experiencing each moment, you suddenly stop relating to yourself as an ill person. You lose all expectations of what it means to be ill, and you simply be you at that moment.
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